Day 1: Adelaide, Australia
Arrive in Adelaide, the sophisticated state capital of South Australia. Wedged between the Mount Lofty Ranges and Gulf St. Vincent, this is the historic homeland of the indigenous Kaurna people. Adelaide, established by British settlers in 1836 as a convict-free colony, has become an urban gateway for Australia’s burgeoning wine country. Dotted with historic buildings and lush parks, the “City of Churches” is recognizable for its multitude of spires that rise from downtown, representing diverse faiths within a city founded on a commitment to religious freedom and civil liberties. This evening, gather with our Expedition Leaders for a welcome dinner and introduction to our route through Kangaroo Island, Tasmania and Australia's most southerly coast.
Day 2: Adelaide / Private Flight to Kangaroo Island
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for our short charter flight to Kangaroo Island. Australia’s third-largest island is famous for its pristine beaches, local wines and abundant wildlife that the island's isolation has naturally protected. Our solar-powered lodge is our base for exploring a surprisingly diverse landscape in the middle of the Great Australian Bight. Kangaroo Island, or “KI” as it's known by locals, lies less than 10 miles off the mainland, but its offshore status helps sustain considerable numbers of native Australian species, including kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, New Zealand fur seals, Australian sea lions and one of Australia’s largest koala populations.
On arrival, we sit down for a “cuppa” and some homemade treats. Then we're off on a walk down a track through a tall eucalyptus forest where we may spy koalas snoozing overhead. Listen for the sounds of the bush as we spy brightly colored honeyeaters and brilliant parrots. Making our way to the north side of the island, we look for small wallabies nearly extinct on the mainland and a kangaroo found only on Kangaroo Island. Lunch at a private bush camp features King George whiting (a local sea fish), fresh salads and fine South Australian wines. This afternoon, visit Seal Bay Conservation Park for a private tour among Australian sea lions sprawled along a sandy beach— an endangered species nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Today, about 800 of them thrive here, one of Australia’s largest sea lion colonies. We’ll watch pups nursing or playing in the surf, see old bulls scarred by territorial disputes, and learn about their unique breeding biology.
Day 3: Kangaroo Island—Flinders Chase National Park
Kangaroo Island has more than 300 miles of coastline surrounded by turquoise waters, and its remote western reaches offer a true sense of wilderness and solitude, with abundant birdlife and dozing koalas in the eucalyptus trees. We begin the day traveling through some of the landscapes affected by the 2020 bushfires, which have been recovering quickly with generous winter rains. Learn about fire ecology, and see some native flora species that only flower following a burn.
In Flinders Chase National Park, view the massive shapes of the Remarkable Rocks, formed by 500 million years of wind, waves and rain that have left them impossibly perched on top a granite dome plunging into the ocean. Break for lunch with a gourmet bush picnic, then continue to Admirals Arch, a rock bridge and coastal grotto that provides a haul-out for a large colony of long-nosed fur seals. Return to our lodge by late afternoon, in time for a wildlife walk and safari drive in search of kangaroos, Tammar wallabies, koalas, short-beaked echidnas, possum, southern brown bandicoots, Cape Barren geese and bats.
Day 4: Kangaroo Island—Baudin Conservation Park / Honey Farm
A special highlight is in store this morning with a bush breakfast in kangaroo terrain—we’re sure to be distracted from our eggs and bacon by the ‘roos hopping around! Then visit Baudin Conservation Park to see kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles, glossy black cockatoos (if we’re lucky), and scout for dolphins and southern right whales from the shore. The park was a family farm from 1861 to 2002, comprised of she-oak woodland rolling hills, with sweeping views views across Backstairs Passage to the Fleurieu Peninsula. We’ll have lunch and learn more about our environs and the native wildlife as we talk with a local researcher.
This afternoon we visit a honey farm to learn about unique honey produced on the island, from the only pure strain of Ligurian bees left in the world. Imported from Italy to Kangaroo Island in the 1880s, these bees are endemic to this isolated locale, which was declared a sanctuary for the Ligurian bee by an Act of Parliament in 1885. Since their arrival, no other race or strain of honeybee has been introduced or allowed onto the island. Continuing around the island, encounter remnants of a maritime past at Cape du Couedic, Cape Borda and Weirs Cove. Back at our lodge, as dusk approaches, guided walks and wildlife drives offer a chance to search for more nocturnal species in action.
Day 5: Warrnambool / Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve / Great Ocean Road
Fly from Kangaroo Island to Warrnambool on a chartered flight this morning and continue by road to Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve. Formed by volcanic eruptions 30,000 years ago, Tower Hill is part of an Aboriginal Cultural Landscape and is home to some of Australia's best-loved wildlife living inside the large crater of this dormant volcano near the Great Ocean Road. On a guided hike, we learn about the geologic history and ancient lava flows, wetlands, bushland, birdlife and Aboriginal heritage of the area. As we walk, we’ll look for koalas, emus, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, turtles, possums, swans and blue wrens, as they are plentiful here.
After a morning of exploration at Tower Hill, we start our journey down the Great Ocean Road, stopping at geological features such as the Grotto, London Bridge and Bay of Martyrs. Driving southwest through coastal rain forest and eucalyptus woodlands, past secluded beaches and ancient volcanic plains, we admire giant tree ferns and freshwater streams. We stop to explore an upland waterfall and scout the gum trees for abundant koalas. This lush, diverse region is also home to kangaroos and emus. By late afternoon we reach our hotel, which claims a spectacular perch atop the bay. Dinner at sunset overlooking the water is a special highlight.
Day 6: Twelve Apostles / Port Campbell National Park / Great Otway National Park
Today we explore a stunning stretch of coast that includes both a national park and a national marine reserve. In the golden light of morning, take in the drama of the Twelve Apostles, rugged limestone stacks that rise from the Southern Ocean off Port Campbell National Park. Eroded from mainland cliffs in a process that began 10–20 million years ago, these structures were originally caves, then arches that collapsed to become isolated 150-foot-high rock towers rising straight up from the sea. The marine park below harbors colorful sponge gardens, reef fish, soft corals and kelp forests. Surveying the rock formations from the mainland, we witness a dynamic landscape constantly sculpted by wind and water. Australian fur seals are often seen bobbing offshore or hauled out in a large colony on the rocks.
Continue to Loch Ard Gorge, hear the vivid history of the many shipwrecks along this stretch of coast. Ultimately, we reach Cape Otway at the southern tip of Victoria, near where the Southern Ocean meets the deep blue Bass Strait. This is the historic homeland of the Gadubanud people—an area now known as Great Otway National Park. Spend the afternoon exploring the park and visit the oldest lighthouse in mainland Australia, built in 1848. On a walk in the rain forest, learn about the coastal ecosystems that surround the Great Ocean Road. At dusk, we visit a wildlife sanctuary established by the Conservation Ecology Center in Cape Otway to learn about species in the region. On a walk through lush tree fern gulleys and eucalypt woodland, look for bandicoots, potoroos, swamp wallabies and other local fauna.
Day 7: Great Ocean Road / Private Flight to Tasmania— Cradle Mountain / Tasmanian Devil Encounter
Rise early to drive the final stretch of the Great Ocean Road to Geelong, where we board a private flight to the island state of Tasmania, 150 miles south across the Bass Strait. Landing in Launceston, continue to the interior of this island that covers more than 26,000 square miles, 42% of which is protected in national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A legacy of wilderness appreciation is intrinsic to Tasmania, the birthplace of the world’s first environmental political party. The island was occupied by Tasmanian Aboriginals for 30,000 years before the British Empire arrived in the form of a penal colony in 1803.
Continue to our lodge on the edge of Cradle Mountain National Park where we settle in before an evening outing to see Tasmanian devils. A nearby conservation sanctuary is working to protect and sustain these mysterious animals, and our visit offers a rare opportunity to see and learn about these hard-to-find nocturnal species that are endangered in the wild. The sanctuary is involved with breeding, release and re-introduction of Tasmanian devils, in addition to field monitoring of wild populations and orphan rehabilitation. It also houses the closely related spotted-tail and Eastern quolls, offering a trifecta of Tasmania’s three largest carnivorous marsupials. If our timing is right, we may even witness a feeding. Later tonight, keep an eye out for wallabies, echidna, pademelons and wombats as they come out around dusk and are often spotted in the vicinity of our lodge.
Day 8: Cradle Mountain–Lake St. Clair National Park
The day launches early as we enter Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. This UNESCO-protected realm covers 3.7 million acres, one-fifth of Tasmania’s landmass. The park’s imposing peaks, lakes and glacier-sculpted valleys comprise some of Australia’s most stunning landscapes. 5,069-foot Cradle Mountain is surrounded by diverse habitats of grassland, temperate rain forest and ancient plants that date to the supercontinent of Gondwana, including the King Billy pine, deciduous beech and pandani, the world’s tallest heath plant. We take a hike around Dove Lake, gleaming sapphire-blue beneath Cradle Mountain’s jagged profile, and stop at some waterfalls, too. Wildlife abounds in the park, and we seek it out on walks at dawn and dusk. Wombats, a cuddly cousin to the koala, is prevalent here, although no koalas exist in the wild in Tasmania. On a night walk, keep an eye out for wallabies, pademelon, possum and echidna. And while we’re extremely unlikely to see one, Tasmanian devils and quolls also inhabit the forest.
Day 9: Central Plateau Conservation Area / Derwent Valley—Paddling with Platypus
After a dawn wildlife walk, we have breakfast, then continue to Marakoopa Cave in Mole Creek Karst National Park for a private tour of this dramatic limestone cavern. This immense structure boasts two underground streams, large vaulted chambers, expanses of glittering flowstone and dramatic stalagmites, plus a sparkling display of bioluminescent glowworms. From here, it's a half day’s drive to southern Tasmania. En route, we stop at the Central Plateau Conservation Area, a wild place of subalpine moorlands and countless tarns. In the isolated heart of Tasmania away from major roads, the region is known for its wilderness hiking and world-class trout fishing. We stop to admire the view of Great Lake and look for yellow-tailed black cockatoos and Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles, among other birdlife.
Continue to Truffle Lodge, a luxury camping outpost in a remote part of the Derwent Valley that is our private accommodation for the next two nights. This afternoon we have a private kayaking tour on the Derwent River, paddling in search of wild platypus that are often spotted just below our tents perched on the bank. This 100-million-year-old semi-aquatic mammal has a duck-like bill, webbed feet and fur, and along with the echidna, it is one of just two egg-laying mammal species on Earth. Once dusk falls, look for echidna, wallabies and pademelon, then enjoy dinner and stargazing from camp, if the skies are clear.
Day 10: Mount Field National Park
Wake early and wander the environs of our private camp looking for wildlife. After breakfast, we head to Mount Field National Park, Tasmania’s oldest, along with Freycinet, established in 1916. Yet the park has been a nature reserve since 1885, when early white settlers were awestruck by its waterfalls and natural beauty. The region had already been occupied for millennia, however, as the homelands of the Big River nation of Tasmanian Aborigines. They knew this place when it was buried in glacial ice, and later as rain forests and eucalypt forests flourished. Cave sites, ochre mines, hand-stencil art, rock engravings and stone tool quarries provide a glimpse of their extraordinary lives here. We spend the day walking in their ancient footsteps among the tallest flowering trees in the world, and exploring the coastal rain forest. In summer, the high country can be a blaze of color with blooming waratahs, boronias and heath. Weather will determine our activities in the park, but we’re sure to end the day with a sense of wonder at the many treasures it holds. Back at camp, more wildlife watching awaits this evening, as well as time around the fire under the stars.
Day 11: Mount Field National Park / Hobart
Spend a last day in search of wildlife and exploring more of Mount Field National Park before departing this afternoon for Hobart, Tasmania’s capital at the mouth of the Derwent River and one of Australia's oldest cities. We check in to Corinda, an elegant Victorian mansion built in the 1870s, with one of the finest private gardens in Tasmania. Though its layout follows the lines of Victorian precision, a noted travel writer described it as “a joyfully insouciant mix of topiary, exotic trees and textured shrubs, as well as a flourishing kitchen garden.” This hilltop hideaway is one of many period homes in this tranquil suburb, with panoramic views over the city, mountains and harbor. Relax and make yourself at home, as the entire house is ours, with a drawing room, conservatory, wrought-iron-trimmed veranda, and six lavish bedrooms decorated in period style. Gather this evening to toast your traveling companions with a glass of Tasmanian wine, followed by a farewell dinner of acclaimed local cuisine featuring vegetables and herbs grown on the estate.
Day 12: Hobart / Depart
Our southern Australia nature safari comes to a close in Hobart this morning. A transfer to the airport is included for flights to the mainland and beyond.